Snobby Employees May Inadvertently Increase Sales

September 9, 2019

A study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that rude employees in luxury stores can actually make you want to buy more. Cheddar explains the psychology behind the unfortunate mindset.


FEMALE_1: You're looking to buy a fancy new purse or belt.

FEMALE_1: So you go to a luxury store,

FEMALE_1: walk in and this happens.

FEMALE_2: Hi, I'm looking for a bag.

FEMALE_3: Uh, sure.

FEMALE_1: Pause; because of this interaction,

FEMALE_1: you're going to spend

FEMALE_1: more money than you would have before.


FEMALE_4: It's almost a joke at this point.

FEMALE_4: Employees at stores like Louis Vuitton,

FEMALE_4: Prada and Gucci are notorious for being

FEMALE_4: standoffish and downright mean

FEMALE_4: to customers who don't look the type.

FEMALE_5: How much is this? [MUSIC]

FEMALE_6: I don't think this would fit you.

FEMALE_5: Well, I didn't ask if it will fit.

FEMALE_5: I asked how much it was.

FEMALE_6: How much is this, Marie?

FEMALE_7: It's very expensive.

FEMALE_6: It's very expensive.

FEMALE_4: According to all rules of retail sales,

FEMALE_4: employees are supposed to be polite,

FEMALE_4: helpful, [NOISE] and nice.

FEMALE_4: The customer is always right and all that.

FEMALE_4: But what if the prevailing opinion was wrong?

FEMALE_4: That's the question that Darren Dahl,

FEMALE_4: a professor at the University of British Columbia

FEMALE_4: decided to ask.

FEMALE_4: He conducted a few studies,

FEMALE_4: asking people immediately before,

FEMALE_4: immediately after,

FEMALE_4: and two weeks after an employee was rude to them.

FEMALE_4: They included a variety of stores,

FEMALE_4: ranging from Gap to Gucci.

FEMALE_4: Some of the interactions at

FEMALE_4: the higher end stores went like this;

FEMALE_2: Can I see that one?

FEMALE_3: [MUSIC] Um, I don't

FEMALE_3: think you'll be interested in that bag.

FEMALE_3: It's one of our more expensive ones.

FEMALE_1: Dahl found that in less expensive stores, like Gap,

FEMALE_1: J Crew, and American Eagle,

FEMALE_1: rude employees had the expected effect.

FEMALE_1: It drove away customers and made them

FEMALE_1: less likely to buy the product they came for.

FEMALE_1: But in luxury stores,

FEMALE_1: Dahl found that the opposite was true.

FEMALE_1: When customers went into a luxury store to buy

FEMALE_1: something and the salesperson was exclusionary,

FEMALE_1: they reported a much greater desire

FEMALE_1: to purchase the product in the moment.

FEMALE_1: But in two weeks,

FEMALE_1: their desire had significantly decreased.

FEMALE_4: But why is it that customers

FEMALE_4: who conventional wisdom says,

FEMALE_4: you should cater to, like, being treated badly?

FEMALE_4: It's because of something called social exclusion.

FEMALE_4: Basically, being in a group used to be key to survival,

FEMALE_4: and it still is essential for

FEMALE_4: our emotional and mental well-being.

FEMALE_1: Humans want to be in a group

FEMALE_1: especially one that is deemed more desirable.

FEMALE_1: The desire to purchase a product was

FEMALE_1: influenced by the rejection of

FEMALE_1: the group that you identified with.

FEMALE_1: When you walk into a designer store you love

FEMALE_1: and see those slick salespeople chatting together,

FEMALE_1: you want to be included.

FEMALE_4: And you'll buy a bag or sunglasses

FEMALE_4: or 800 thread count linen sheets to do it.

FEMALE_4: Dahl compares it to the popular group in

FEMALE_4: high school, you want in.

FEMALE_1: There are some conditions.

FEMALE_1: This effect only works when

FEMALE_1: the salesperson is a good representation of the brand.

FEMALE_1: So a sloppily dressed employee doesn't quite cut it.

FEMALE_1: They have to be someone you identify with

FEMALE_1: and whose rejection hurts [MUSIC]

FEMALE_8: Ma'am, do you have this in the next size up?

FEMALE_9: Sorry, we only carry sizes 1,

FEMALE_9: 3, and 5. You could try Sears.

FEMALE_1: The brand also has to be aspirational.

FEMALE_1: They have to be what Dahl calls an ideal self concept.

FEMALE_1: Like Louis Vuitton and Prada,

FEMALE_1: are ideal self concepts of luxury.

FEMALE_1: Tesla would be the ideal self concept of sustainability.

FEMALE_4: If the brand is accessible,

FEMALE_4: people don't care about being a part of it,

FEMALE_4: but when it's inaccessible.

FEMALE_2: I can afford it, don't worry.

FEMALE_3: Look, we need to be ready for real customers, okay?

FEMALE_2: I'll take the bag. I'll take it bag right now.

FEMALE_1: Our study shows that you've got to be the right kind of

FEMALE_1: snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work,

FEMALE_1: " Dahl told Science Daily.

FEMALE_1: Something else that will make

FEMALE_1: you more susceptible, self-esteem.

FEMALE_1: The stronger your belief in your own identity,

FEMALE_1: the less likely you'll feel the need

FEMALE_1: to use the brand as your identity,

FEMALE_1: according to Dahl's paper.

FEMALE_3: That'll be $5,000.

FEMALE_4: Do luxury stores do this on

FEMALE_4: purpose? Not that we could tell.

FEMALE_1: We couldn't find any indication that designer brands

FEMALE_1: specifically requested that their employees be snobby.

FEMALE_1: So we don't know.

FEMALE_1: But since researchers found that

FEMALE_1: improved impressions gained by

FEMALE_1: rude treatment faded over time,

FEMALE_1: we think that having that beer brand strategy

FEMALE_1: would be a bad idea.

FEMALE_1: If you're shopping for a luxury item

FEMALE_1: and are being treated rudely,

FEMALE_1: Dahl suggests leaving and coming back later

FEMALE_1: or avoiding the interaction

FEMALE_1: altogether by shopping online.

FEMALE_1: So basically, give it time.

FEMALE_1: Then you won't spend extra money trying to prove that,

FEMALE_1: yeah, I am popular.